September 06, 2004

One More Time: The Name and the Sex

The origin of the Stupidest Pseudonym Ever Born:

One thing I will clarify right now is the stupid, stupid name. It's a pseudonym. It's a bad, bad joke, too. It dates back to 1992 or 93, I forget exactly which, when I logged onto a little BBS called Tasty Petunia Vomit, hosted by a sysop who went by Nifty Corpse . . . .

I immediately began thinking of Nifty as my new best friend, and he immediately began thinking of me as a demented lonely lady who called his BBS from work a lot. The relationship has changed only in the sense that I'm a little less lonely these days and don't keep in touch with him as often as I'd like--but again, for all I know, he considers that a huge relief.

Anyway, I couldn't log into a BBS called Tasty Petunia Vomit, hosted by Nifty Corpse, without a handle of my own, so I chose "Ilyka Damen." Pronounced eye-LIKE-a da-MEN. I'll give you a minute to quit rolling your eyes and making that weird choking sound.

I quickly realized that no one got the joke. The most common assumption I got was that I was a Russian male. People, "Ilya" may be a Russian name, but "Ilyka" is nobody's name. Except mine when I'm online. Even the Bad Baby Namers couldn't come up with something that godawful. Something that bad takes work, I tell you.

Despite no one being able to pronounce it, laugh at it, or respect it in anyway whatsoever, I got used to using it as a handle, and find I can love no other. I'm a one-handle kinda gal.

One thing I've always been a mite touchy about--and I have no business being touchy about it; not after coming up with such an ambiguous handle--is the implication that I might not be, in fact, a chick.

Like I said, I have no business being touchy about it. But there you go. I think there's something about being told you don't sound like a chick, you don't act like a chick, you're not feminine like a chick, that always rankles a woman. I mean, in a way, it's a compliment. In another way, it . . . well, it hurts, if you want to know the truth. And I don't cop to having hurt feelings--particularly not hurt feelings over something written on the damn internet--every day.

Anyway, detectives in the house may feel free to request verification of my sex by emailing this fellow, this fellow, or this fellow; two of the three have met me personally, and the other has my full name from a receipt of payment forwarded to him (and he's done an excellent job of keeping that information confidential, for which I am grateful).

Or you can just sit around going, "Now, what are the odds that a girl would take three weeks off her blog to play computer games? Hmm," to which I can only say, "Better than you think, sir. Better than you think."

Incidentally, is that Gender Genie thing still out there? You know, that thing where it tries to guess your sex based on samples of your writing? Anyone know what happens if you run me through it? I've never bothered; I think those things are stupid and pointless, but maybe I'll try it 'cause now I'm curious.

I did once fool some questionnaire that tried to guess your sex based on your responses to the questions. One of the specific questions I recall in which I didn't register as "typically" female was, do you prefer a room painted white or a room painted blue? I happen to hate blue, but apparently plain-white rooms are a turnoff to many women, so my answer wasn't typical of my sex on that one.

Posted by Ilyka at September 6, 2004 05:10 PM in navel gazing

When I was younger I used to think up pseudonyms for my newsletter, so I could write in it as well as publish it and see what kind of response I got if people didn't know it was me. Nobody ever got "Kip M. Ghesin." But then, a lot fewer people get "Pen-Elayne" than I would have thought possible...

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at September 6, 2004 05:43 PM

*laugh* Okay, color me clueless; I'd wondered about the name, but never thought about it enough to try and parse it. Cute!!

My handle is about as boring as boring gets, but hey, it works for me. (I picked it when I started hanging out at political blogs; I hated the vitriol coming from Anonymous all the time. I'll show YOU, I thought smugly; I'll be polite, AND I'll give my first name, and that Anonymous fellow can go fry ice. No good, though; Anonymous still writes a lot more than I do. I don't know where he finds the time.)

*shrug* Some names are gender-specific, others aren't. You pays your money, you takes your choice. I probably had to read an article or two on and before I knew the author's gender for sure; same deal here.

More to the point, your handle is unique, so far as I know, which is pretty impressive all by itself! (At the moment, www.ilyka and www.ilyka-damen are available across the board -- .com, .net. .org, .info, .name, the works. Cool!)

best wishes,
Daniel in Medford

Posted by: Daniel in Medford at September 6, 2004 08:12 PM

That happens a lot. I'm not actually quite sure why it is, either. I hosted online/interactive humor games/chat for a now-defunct company and invariably, the funniest folks would be assigned a male gender. Like females can't be howlingly funny? ::: shrugs ::: Obviously THAT was a wrong assumption.

I think you're the bees knees, of course, but it really never mattered to me whether you peed standing up or sitting down. My husband does giggle at me when I tell him about something I've read here: "Say it again," he asks me. Oy.

Oh yeah! And Gender Genie always pegged me as being a male. Every time. Go fig.

Posted by: Emma at September 6, 2004 11:25 PM

I've had some folks who read my blog thinking I'm a guy. I have no idea why, because I always feel like my writing is female more than male.

Oh, and mentally, I've been pronouncing your name "IL yu Ka" or something like that :)

Posted by: Ith at September 6, 2004 11:53 PM

Hope this fulfills your androgynous fantasies.

(and yes, it says you are a guy.)

Posted by: rammer at September 7, 2004 12:36 PM

My name on the old BBs was [Sandy-Eggo] (including the brackets, isn't that just special?) so I had the same problem with people mistaking my gender.

Posted by: Jim at September 7, 2004 03:11 PM

Heh. Here's where life experience tripped me up. Seeing your blognym on blogrolls I got the I-like-a part. Having spent a lot of time in Germany, my initial gut was "Damen" as in the german word for 'women.'

I just figgered you were, um, well, y'know, like, gay... cuz you're writing was seemingly female.

It was interesting to see how my life had shaped my expectations.

Just goes to show that not-so-old saying, "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog (metaphorically, metaphorically) and how much our hidden prejudices shape our thinking.

Posted by: John of Argghhhh! at September 7, 2004 10:15 PM

Oh, god yes. I got so tired of being referred to as "he" that I started going out of my way to refer to myself as a woman. Hell, I even had one guy forget halfway through an argument after being told and accuse me of needing guns to feel like "a real man". He acknowledged the correction but stipulated that I definitely have "balls". Uh, thanks, dude.

I guess chicks can't be matter-of-fact or logical. Or assertive.

Posted by: LabRat at September 8, 2004 12:10 AM

My inithial take on the name was influenced by the fact that I used to live just off a major street in Chicago, Damen, pronounced as "Day-min". I actually met a fellow, thru the old TRS Color Computer crowd, who went by the handle Damen Belmont. He was surprised to learn that there was a major intersection between those streets, and that I lived near it.

John, I doubt anyone online is thinking I might be a dog at the moment.

Posted by: triticale at September 8, 2004 12:25 AM

John, you've just cleared up a great mystery. I've been wondering why I routinely get searches from for "damen." Clearly, though it may have worked well enough as a BBS nick, this handle was not meant to go international.

I love it. It just adds a whole 'nother layer of stupid to an already-dumb name.

Posted by: ilyka at September 8, 2004 12:36 AM

1) Oh, sure. Take all the romance out of it for us. I always thought of you as being Japanese-German—something like that. (And I've been pronouncing it "ILka DAmun.")

2) I figure it might be very hard to know I was female, if I didn't use a chick screen name, unless I were actually writing about sex or the female experience.

Fact is, when we're using our yang more than our yin, people might not know: look at James Tiptree, Jr.—a lot of SF readers were sure that she couldn't be female. [Though I guess there were other reasons people assumed she was a man . . . ;) ]

3) White walls. Yes. That way, you can hang any art you like on them, and it'll work fine.

Posted by: Attila Girl at September 8, 2004 05:07 AM


For the record, I always thought you were a girl. Maybe because Ith called you "she". :-)

Posted by: Princess Jami at February 24, 2005 09:22 PM

Heh. I just now clicked on the "About the Name" link. I had no idea. I've always assumed that you are a woman. You just seem... I don't know... womanly, I guess. And the name... I never had any idea how to pronounce it but it's so unusual (and kinda pretty) I assumed it was real. Frankly, I'm a bit disillusioned. :-)

Posted by: Lynn S at May 8, 2005 01:19 AM

Ilikea thamen?


Posted by: OHNOES at August 19, 2005 09:29 AM

The post got cut off. Guess it doesn't like the wincing smiley.


There goes the "eastern European dusky maiden" mystique.

Posted by: OHNOES at August 21, 2005 05:09 PM

For what it's worth, I always knew it was "I like-ah dah men" thanks to Mirage. He always pronounced it that way and I never suspected anything different.


Posted by: Atlantis at September 9, 2005 08:02 AM

Too many blog sites ... worth reading ... I just discovered you, and now you're changing? Damn. Frankly I don't care how ya pee either if I find your writing interesting. Used to imagine blogging myself once or twice, however, there are so many really good writers out there I have to confess feeling intimidated. Best of luck at your new blog, hope it doesn't take me as long to find it as it did to find this one.

Posted by: Blaine at September 17, 2005 09:41 AM

Funny. I knew you were female right away.

Not sure why, but from your first comments I read, I immediately pictured you that way.


Posted by: Trey Givens at October 24, 2005 07:23 AM